The former head of the local ACLU is urging anyone who lives or works in Pasadena to participate in an information-gathering project by filing Public Records Act (PRA) requests for data being captured and stored in the city Police Department’s Automatic License Plate Reader (ALPR) surveillance program.

In an email sent out to an unknown number of people on Dec. 1, Ed Washatka, former president of the ACLU Pasadena Foothill Branch and now a member of the Coalition for Increased Civilian Oversight of Pasadena Police (CICOPP) and Pasadenans Organizing for Progress (POP!), said the two groups, with the help of attorney Dale Gronemeier, are collecting data of their own about the program.

As a result of his experience with filing a PRA for his records,  Washatka learned police “had 20 surveillance records on my car in a one-year period,” he wrote. “[With] its two-year record-retention practice, the Pasadena PD thus maintains an average of 40 surveillance records on where I’ve driven my car during the past two years — even though I’m not under suspicion for any criminal activity.”

Washatka said the program is something akin to “J. Edgar Hoover type tactics.”

Pasadena Police Chief Phillip Sanchez said police are not building profiles on people. Further, “… unless it’s investigatory, we are destroying the records two years after we collect them.”

After filing a PRA and receiving the information he sought, Washatka found out his car had been scanned 14 times in the daytime and six times at night between Oct. 15, 2016 and Aug. 19. Most of those scans occurred while he was parked near the Police Department, City Hall and the city Job Center on North Lake Avenue.

“Do what I did by sending a PRA request to the Pasadena PD to obtain its surveillance records on your car(s) for the same period of time.  You’ll find out if you’re being subjected to more or less surveillance than I’ve been,” Washatka wrote. “… PRA requests from car-owners avoid the privacy issues that arise when third parties request the surveillance records; the Pasadena PD promptly responded to my request on my personal auto.”

Washatka said members of POP! And CICOPP believe the ALPR program is a useful police tool for identifying stolen autos and for active police investigations, “but the PD’s two-year retention policy is unjustified.”

“The retention of massive amounts of surveillance data on the movements of residents who are not criminal suspects is an unjustified invasion of our privacy,” he wrote.

Gronemeier called the storage of the records for two years “a perversion of legitimate law-enforcement goals that should not be tolerated.”

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